Shipping Things to Vietnam: A Warning

By: City Pass Guide

Importing any goods into any country is, of course, subject to certain restrictions and prohibitions.

In this respect Vietnam is no different. In order to check the prohibited and restricted items, the British Royal Mail website (, has some useful information. In addition to this, it is worth remembering that the country of origin will also have regulations as to what can and what cannot be exported.

It is almost always safer to use one of the recognised courier companies like FedEx, DHL or UPS, rather than unknown companies or the postal service. Things have a habit of getting “lost” as soon as they hit the country. Using a courier will cost you more, but at least it will arrive.

"Professional courier services can be expensive but prove to be the most secure method."

It is also worth remembering that your parcel will more than likely be opened by customs as soon as it hits Vietnam. So accurate labelling as to the contents is important. You don’t want to fall foul of customs services here. They deliver a white slip of paper informing you that a parcel has arrived and that it must be collected from an exact location within a certain time frame. If you happen to be travelling when this happens and miss the deadline, your parcel will be sent back to whence it came and the sender will be liable for charges. Also the internet is full of horror stories when it comes to the postal service. People can sometimes get bounced around from one post office to the next before finally finding their item, only to be informed that ridiculously high import duties are liable, before the parcel will be released.

"Miss your collection time and your parcel will be sent back to its place of origin."

Photo by: SpirosK photography

The problem is not restricted to Vietnam - this seems to be relevant for all of Southeast Asia. When I emigrated to Thailand in 2008, I put all the things that mattered to me in a rather nice chest of drawers and paid a courier company in the UK £170 to ship it out. I was told that the fee charged in the UK covered all import duties in the destination country. It arrived about three months later and I was told to go to the docks to collect it. I duly arrived at the customs office and was told that the import duty was well over $5,000 dollars. The whole lot was worth nowhere near that. Despite things of sentimental value, I decided against it and lost the lot forever. No doubt the customs guys had a great time sharing it all out.

The problems don’t end here either. Many people, upon hearing of the shortcomings of the Vietnamese postal service, decide to simply put valuable items on a plane when they are travelling out to Vietnam. However, putting anything valuable in the hold of an aircraft is never a good idea, and not just in Vietnam. By 2014, airlines were losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year, and that was down by more than half on the staggering figure of 47 million in 2007 (The Wall Street Journal).

Whilst only one in every 2,000 mishandled bags is lost forever (The Independent) that still represents more than 10,000 items per year that are never reunited with their owners. In 2008, Essex CID conducted Operation Bruno, which led to the arrest of 22 baggage handlers at London’s Stansted Airport, who were caught stealing from luggage.

"Airlines are losing almost 22 million items of luggage per year."

I hate to sound so negative about all this but the only safe way to get your valuable items arriving safely at their destination is to use one of the well known reputable companies, as named above, or to hand carry it on the plane yourself and never let it out of your sight. Letting it out of your sight opens up a whole new level of airline theft. Passengers have been reporting items stolen from hand luggage in increasing numbers. In 2012 Vietnam airlines reported 28 cases of valuables stolen from hand luggage. In 2013 nine thieves were caught in the act (

The bottom line is, unless it is imperative, don’t bother. The costs are high and the risks are higher. Using reputable courier services is definitely the way to go; or if you can, carry it on board your flight and sit on it!

Header photo by: Niklas Morberg

Waiting for the Metro: Hospitality in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

Tourism numbers are up in Saigon, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to increased profits in the hospitality industry. With more than 35 years in the industry and almost five years as the general manager of the New World Saigon, David Wicker explains the situation.

David Wicker - general manager of new world hotel

Would you say that the room rates in Ho Chi Minh City are rather low compared to the rates of hotels in other destinations in Vietnam?

They are. If you go to Da Nang, Nha Trang and even Hanoi you see in many 4- or 5-star hotels a room is $150 to $200, whereas in Ho Chi Minh City, unless you’re talking about the high-end Hyatts or the Reveries, room rates tend to be at the low side of $100. A lot of that is because of the quality of the in-bound business that’s coming into the country. The wholesale businesses [and] the corporate industries tend to be very budget-conscious. So in order for us to achieve our fair market share, we really need to squeeze rates down.

So what would it take to be able to raise the rates?

Some of the safety features of the country and the variety of tourist sights within Vietnam is quite limited. People come to Ho Chi Minh City and say what can they do? There’s the Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta and there’s not much else. Whereas if I go to Bangkok I’ve got a whole week of activities I can do. There isn’t a great deal of organised places for people to go where it’s structured in terms of safety and security, where there are orchestrated tours run by the government or government-authorized bodies, and so there’s a hesitation for any professional [hospitality] operator to offer higher rates.

How about HR-related issues? Have you seen any change since you’ve been here?

Talking about the shift in the mentality of working regimes here is a little bit of a controversial issue. The changing face of the newcomers today is that they’re more hungry, they have a better understanding of the skills required [for their job] as well as the development of those skills. And they’re interested in promoting them, whereas we have had a lot of staff that’d been at the hotel for a long time. They’re quite happy to be at the lowest levels of job task and not interested in any future promotional development. That’s something that in today’s environment would be quite unusual.

You run a 5-star hotel here in Saigon. What’s the ratio between the corporate clientele and tourists?

We are primarily a corporate hotel. Over 70 percent of our business is corporate, so 30 percent is leisure. But it varies. I have to mention, the corporate business tends to have a lower flexibility with their rates. They can’t afford to spend two to three hundred dollars a night for rooms in Ho Chi Minh City. So there are a lot of local hotels offering 50- to 100-dollar rooms, and businesspeople will be using those hotels in preference to us. When it comes to the big global companies, there’s a lack of presence of some of the big international players. Marriott has a very low presence here, for example. Intercontinental has one hotel. When you look at the number of hotels that those brands actually have, it tells you the bigger picture is incomplete. There are a lot missing.

new world saigon hotel

Based on what you’ve told me, the demand for new hotels is still a bit weak here. Would you say there’s limited ability to grow?

Sure, yeah. We’re in a transition phase. There is growth and development is moving in the right direction, but some of the basic infrastructure needs to be put in place. The traffic is a classic example. It takes so long to get from point A to point B here because of congestion. And those become negatives for [the travel and hospitality company] Aegis to try to sell to groups.

So all of these constraints seem to be long-term issues. To overcome them will take years, and so would you say that during the next five years we can’t expect to see radical change in terms of hospitality offering in Ho Chi Minh City?

That’s really quite true, and I think it’s probably linked to the mass transit system. Once the government has got the underground train system in place, it may help. And it will start to add value to some of the corporate businesses coming in. Information technology companies and some of the big pharmaceutical companies who are probably desperate to move out of China because of the rising costs, but not necessarily convinced that Vietnam offers them the right opportunities. So five years, yes.

Best Bike Repair in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

During my almost 12 months in the serene chaos that is Ho Chi Minh City I have owned a total of two bicycles. As per custom I named each of them, and both Susie and Richard have been instrumental parts of my life here. They have also both warranted city-wide searches for repair shops, secondhand salesmen and the friendliest road-side tire inflator man. I have a few favorite tire inflator men. You should visit them too.

Repairs on the cheap, or not...

Sometimes it’s worth spending that tiny bit more on your bicycle just to make sure the job you get is a good one. Especially if you plan to ride it in Ho Chi Minh City. I mean after all, that thing is the only thing carrying you safely through the mess of chaotic bullets that are the streets of Saigon. That being said, cheaper options are available!

  • Đề Thám in District 1: all along this street there are a number of sidewalk motorbike and bicycle workshops. My favourite is at the Phạm Ngũ Lão end of the street on the corner of Đề Thám and Trần Hưng Đạo, but there are several other shops over the other side of Trần Hưng Đạo. Shop around for prices, and check all parts before you hand over your money. A new tire and inner tube should cost around VND 100,000 to 150,000.

Tire inflator men

Since my bike sports disgustingly old tires at the moment I have gradually become very well acquainted with the best of Saigon’s grinning men with gas, ready to pump up the tires of your motorbike or bicycle. My absolute favourite sits near the Đề Thám end of infamous Bùi Viện. This tiny guy wears only khaki and always asks for ‘ten dollar’ from me before giggling and accepting my usual VND 2,000 with a grin. The joker…

Second Hand Gems: Where to Buy a Second Hand Bike in Ho Chi Minh City?

There is a famous bike street in Ho Chi Minh City. Go to Bùi Hữu Nghĩa in District 1 and prepare to be overwhelmed by spokes and tires. At the intersection of Bùi Hữu Nghĩa and Trường Sa just as you cross over the river, a seemingly endless strip of bicycles and motorbikes appears. This street is a black market hotspot, so if you buy here bear three things in mind:

  • Shop around. There are so many stores on this street! Be patient and walk the strip, check prices at as many shops as you can and compare quality - don’t rush the process.
  • Bargain hard. I brought a dealer down from VND 3,000,000 to 800,000 with a simple stubborn ‘no’.
  • Check EVERYTHING. Look at the tires and if possible request to see the inner tube, check the spokes are tight and unbroken, try out the brakes and make sure the brake pads are intact, look closely at the chain and if there are gears test every single one. Bikes on this street are usually riddled with low quality and often stolen parts.

Check out other relevant articles:

ibis Saigon Airport: The First Choice for Business Travellers

By: Keely Burkey

Most people think of airport hotels as having grungy carpets, questionable sheets and a nondescript continental breakfast. But when I got to the newly opened ibis Airport Saigon, I could immediately tell that it was different.


Checking in was a good experience. The lobby was well-designed, with plenty of natural light, a staircase leading up to the second floor and a Starbucks coffee shop firmly planted in the opposite corner.

Ibis lobby

The woman at the check-in desk was pleasant and professional, and told me a few key facts about the hotel. This branch opened in December 2016, making it one of the newest hotels in Saigon; a shuttle to and from the airport can be scheduled in advance, although Tan Son Nhat Airport is a mere six-minute walk from ibis’ front doors; and all ibis hotels offer what they call the 15-minute guarantee: ever since the first ibis opened in Bordeaux in 1974, every hotel ensures that if a customer has any sort of problem that’s not solved within 15 minutes, they get one more night free of charge.

Would I be able to wrangle a free night? I would soon find out.

Room with a View

The room was small, yet comfortable. Ibis offers a variety of rooms ranging from 18 to 72 square metres (you can also rent one of the studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom long-stay apartments). My room came with a queen-sized bed, mini fridge, small electronic safe and flatscreen cable TV. From my fourth storey room I looked out over a manicured courtyard with numerous blooming plumeria trees.

Ibis room

Before dinner I decided to treat myself to some spa time. Bathing suit on, I headed to the rooftop swimming pool where I could see the main draw of the hotel: the view. The long, rectangular outdoor pool ran along one side of the hotel, overlooking Tan Son Nhat Airport. Going for a swim and watching planes take off and land is quite special.

Dinner at Oopen and Drinks at the Hub

Once I had worked up an appetite, I headed down to the 24-hour Oopen Restaurant on the first floor. The restaurant is best described as fresh and clean. I was seated quickly, and the wait staff were almost eerily efficient. I ordered the Terra pasta (linguini with creamy carbonara sauce with mushrooms), and as soon as I tasted it, I could tell Ibis was from Europe. If you’d prefer something Vietnamese, this fusion bistro offers delicacies like the Vietnamese barbecue pork banh mi and a more traditional com chien.

ibis oopen

I hadn’t hit 8 p.m. yet after dinner, which meant that happy hour (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) was still going on at the Hub bar on the rooftop. With a half-priced draft of Tiger in hand, I looked out over the expanse of Tan Son Nhat Airport and Tan Binh District and saw a different side of Saigon. One of the special things about the Hub is that it passes on house music of any kind, opting instead for a mellow, loungey feel, where you can converse with friends or take a dip in the pool after sundown. Despite the occasional startling sound of a plane roaring off the runway, I was in peace.

Sweet Sleep and a Breakfast of Champions

If I thought the drink at the Hub was peaceful, sinking into my bed later that night sealed it. Ibis’ slogan is a pillow, and now I can see why: the pillow, mattress and duvet were of a supremely high quality. This feature is highlighted in brochures, and rightly so.

The next morning, breakfast was waiting at Oopen. The hotel takes pride in its three breakfast shifts: the Early Riser from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., the conventional breakfast from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and the Late Riser from 10:30 a.m. to noon. I took advantage of the Late Riser (it was the weekend, after all, and I had no flight to catch) and was delighted to see a wide assortment. In the chafing dishes were bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs and hardboiled eggs; on the tables were orange juice, a sushi bar and a veritable mountain of baked goods.

Ibis 1 bedroom

As I checked out of ibis Airport Saigon at noon, I remembered the 15-minute satisfaction guarantee. I wouldn’t be getting my free extra night because I couldn’t find anything to complain about. If you’re curious what ibis has to offer, check out their website at


Best Laptop Repair in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

We’ve found Saigon’s best PC repair shops.

Get your Macbook fixed by an Apple-certified technician.

Check out our tips for buying a used laptops in Ho Chi Minh City.

Laptops are an essential tool for many professionals living and working in Saigon. Teachers often need them for on-the-go lesson planning. Digital nomads, of course, can’t go fully digital without a reliable computer to create content. But what happens when you need a repair in Saigon?

Laptops are perhaps even more difficult to replace or repair than phones. With more moving parts and a tendency to last longer than smartphones, there’s a lot more that could go wrong. To make matters worse, the parts and repairs for most laptops tend to be more expensive.

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source: Ron Howard

But there’s good news: Southeast Asia, with Ho Chi Minh City being no exception, is one of the most cost-effective places in the world to repair electronics. Read on for the best advice—and recommended shops—for repairing your laptop or computer in Saigon.

How to repair a non-Apple laptop in Saigon for the cheapest price?

Countless workshops are dotted around the city with “sửa lap top” advertised on the front, but unless they repair the machine in front of you there is no guarantee that parts of your laptop won’t go missing during the process. You also can’t guarantee the quality of the parts that are used!

Fortunately, we’ve experienced trustworthy service from these local repair shops:

- 223A Phạm Viết Chánh in District 1. Though their English skills are limited, they are kind, reliable and skilled at their trade.

- Laptop Repair Huy Hoang, 264 Huỳnh Văn Bánh, Ward 11, Phú Nhuận. Well-known with a large team of experts, trusted by locals. English speaking skills are limited.

The District 1 location is best for non-Apple repairs, however they are capable of both. One of our correspondents paid VND 1,000,000 here for a new keyboard for his MacBook Pro, with a warranty of 6 months. Huy Hoang is another reliable repair shop in Phu Nhuan district, trusted by locals with a large team of experts.

And what about my Macbook?

If you are looking for somewhere reliable and reasonably priced to repair your Apple laptop, iKnow in Thao Dien is the place to go. iKnow also sells top quality Apple products and accessories.

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source: iKnow

This repair shop is known for its credibility. Brian, owner and founder of iKnow, is a Phillipino-American ex-employee of Apple, and an expert in Apple product repairs.

The iKnow staff speak great English, and, perhaps best of all, they provide wifi, comfy chairs and even an espresso machine. 

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source: iKnow

ANTZ, located more centrally in D1, is another reliable Apple-certified source for repairs. 

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source: ANTZ

Apple repairs can be obtained cheaply in many local shops, but be careful—getting your laptop repaired by a non-certified shop carries its own risks. If budget is your primary concern, most of these shops can offer decent repairs, but they may use knock-off Chinese parts instead of Apple-certified, which may cause you more trouble further down the road.

Where can I buy secondhand or used laptops in Saigon?

 With online marketplaces increasingly gaining popularity, you can find a whole slew of used laptop listings on popular social networking sites like Facebook. A relatively cheap but reliable PC can be obtained for around VND 10 million, though depending on your budget—and your willingness to compromise—you can find some of the cheapest used laptops for much less. 

Local repair shops do sell cheap used laptops, but these are not recommended as they often sell machines that have been stripped of certain parts for external use. You may end up paying for a slow, crippled version of a laptop due to prior damage or modifications.

HALO in District 1 is a reputable storefront for buying used Apple computers. Their machines come with a warranty, technical support, and can be tested in-store before purchasing. This is not the cheapest option, however it’s much more reliable than purchasing from a stranger or a lesser-known local shop.

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source:

Should you decide to buy a used laptop from an individual seller online, you should exercise the same precautions in Vietnam as you would anywhere else. 

- Meet the seller in a public place with good wifi, and check for visible signs of damage. 

- Test the machine as thoroughly as possible and ask questions (Why are you selling this machine? How long have you owned it? Does it have any known problems? etc). 

- Research the model in advance and check the technical specifications to make sure they match up, and check prices for that same laptop in popular online marketplaces like eBay. 

- Keep in mind that imported electronics, like Apple products, will generally cost more than average due to high import taxes. Most PC brands avoid this by manufacturing directly in Vietnam.

This process may seem like a headache, especially to the non-techies who just want a basic machine to do the essentials, but it’s well worth preparing in advance to avoid wasting your hard-earned money on a faulty laptop that will cost you even more time and headaches in the future. 

Of course, buying a used laptop, under any circumstances, is something you must do at your own risk.

Best Laptop Repair in SaigonImage source:

Here are a few of our recommended online marketplaces for buying a used laptop in Saigon: 

- Facebook ‘buy and swap’ pages
Expat Blog
- Craigslist
- Lazada
- ChoTot (Vietnamese only)

Check out other relevant articles:

- Best Mobile Phone Repair in Saigon
Best Bike Repair in Saigon

Banner Image source:

Notary and Translation Services in Ho Chi Minh City

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam’s notary sector, like many other sectors in the country, has its origins in the French system. A notary agent offers a range of services including:

- Witnessing the signing of documents
-Transferring of company capital
- Payout to beneficiaries from an estate

Most notaries in HCMC offer translations but cannot notarise these documents. For that, you will need to source a translation company or your district’s Department of Justice (DOJ) office. However, if you have legal documents that need translating, it’s best to have a law firm do the work. The ward People Committees can notarise and certify copies of Vietnamese documents, while the district People Committees provide a similar service for foreign language documents.

What are the prices for notarisation services in HCMC?

The People’s Committee instituted a blanket fee for notarisation services in the city. Fees are as follows:

- Real estate auction contract: VND100,000/set
- Guarantee contracts: VND100,000/set
- Custody of testaments: VND100,000 /set
- Authorization contracts: VND40,000/set
- Cancellation of contracts or transactions: VND20,000/set
- Other documents: VND40,000/set
- Translation from/to a foreign language: VND45,000-200,000/page
- Issue copies of notarized documents: VND5,000/page, from the third page VND3,000/page

What about translation services in HCMC?

Translation services are plentiful in HCMC both to and from Vietnamese, and between many international languages. Payment structures vary from hourly rates to per page rates. Instead of using a notary (as they cannot notarise translated documents), hire a translation agency to both translate and notarise your documents. You can also have documents translated and notarised at the Department of Justice of HCMC, along with each district.

What notary’s offices or translation service providers in HCMC you should know?

Asia Notary
44 Võ Văn Tần, D3; +84 28 3930 0903

Bến Thành Notary Office
97-99-101 Nguyễn Công Trứ, D1; +84 28 3821 4999

Central Notary Office
454 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, D3; +84 28 6291 5485 / +84 9 0375 2525

Việt Úc Châu
20 Trần Cao Vân, D1; +84 28 3825 6420 / +84 9 8350 8611

DOJ branch for District 1
47 Lê Duẩn, D1; +84 28 3822 3404

DOJ branch for District 2
249 Lương Định Của, D2; +84 28 3740 0509

DOJ branch for District 7
7 Tân Phú, D7; +84 28 3785 0612

DOJ branch for Other Districts
185 Cách Mạng Tháng Tám, D3; +84 28 3834 2441
5 Đoàn Như Hài, D4; +84 28 3940 2388

For more practical information about living in Ho Chi Minh City, order our latest HCMC Resident Guide.